I have a few hundred messages that are all mostly identical. Each message has one of the following strings in the message body.

foo:1 (bar)
foo:2 (bar)

I would like to find all messages with the first string, but not the second.

I have tried everything I can think of in both the quick and advanced search functions in Outlook 2010. In particular, all of the following search terms return messages with foo:2 (bar).

"foo:1 (bar)"
"foo:1 "
"1 (bar)"
"1 "
"1 \(bar\)"

Here's an example screenshot showing what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

The two messages that are found both have message bodies corresponding to their subject lines.

How can I find these messages using Outlook search?


You must use Advanced Find (CTRL+SHIFT+F) to search for special characters. Instant Search ignores special characters.

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  • I mentioned in my question that I have tried using both instant and advanced search functions. Neither works. – Kris Harper Aug 26 '14 at 13:16
  • The title makes the question sound like a "how to search for special characters" type question. It sounds like you're looking for messages that include A but not B. Assuming these values are known/constant, why not use Advanced Find's Condition field in the Advanced tab and search where "Contains='foo:1 (bar)'" and "Doesn't Contain='foo:2 (bar)'" ? – root Aug 26 '14 at 13:24
  • I am doing exactly that. Advanced Find is still coming back with messages that contain foo:2 (bar). – Kris Harper Aug 26 '14 at 13:36
  • If you don't believe me, here's a screenshot. Each message has a body with the corresponding subject in it, but you can see both are coming back in the search. More than that, everything in my Inbox is coming back. I assure you they don't ALL contain foo:1 (bar). – Kris Harper Aug 26 '14 at 13:53

Outlook search doesn't work, apparently, so I went through every message manually and categorized them by sight.

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Try using


It's not obvious, but if you use quotes you can also precede them with a comparison operator. This comparison operator with the tilde means 'has this substring'.

You can also use more normal comparisons, like <, but they are not generally very useful.

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